2012 Asia Mobile Operators

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Last updated: 15 Oct 2012 Update History

Report Status: Archived

Report Pages: 356

Analyst: Peter Evans

Publication Overview

The report has gathered together a selection of information about each of these many operators. The range of information presented in the text, and where appropriate in tables, includes:

  • brief history of the company;
  • corporate and business structure;
  • subscriber growth;
  • some information on financial performance;
  • market position.

It is noted that the information provided varies from market to market and operator to operator, depending very much on the availability of statistics and corporate reports. In some markets BuddeComm also provides an overall review of the market in which we find these operators; this overview includes such statistical information as market share, and Average Revenue per User (ARPU) if available. Within the background information we have also reported on the mergers and acquisition that have been part of a transformational market.

Researcher:- Peter Evans
Current publication date:- October 2012 (10th Edition)

Executive Summary

Asia’s highly competitive mobile market is built on a multitude of innovative operators

Across Asia a total of around three billion mobile subscribers are being served by a large number of mobile operators. The operators are continuing to drive the market, expanding it by more than 10% annually coming into 2012. This market report presents a wide-ranging review, providing details on around 175 of the mobile operators to be found in Asia in 2012.

The list of operators ranges from the giant China Mobile with almost 700 million subscribers right through to a number of much smaller operators with only a few thousand subscribers each. BuddeComm’s overview of operators in the region does not claim to present an exhaustive list of licensed operators but it certainly is indicative of the breadth and variety of operator to be found in the region. It also reflects the highly commercial and competitive nature of the mobile sector in this region.

The focus of this report is on the operators within the individual national markets. Of course, in addition to these individual operators there are those companies such as SingTel, Vodafone, and Axiata (formerly Telekom Malaysia International) that have built a substantial presence around the region beyond their own domestic market through their shareholdings in operators in multiple other markets. This aspect of these corporations is not discussed in any detail but is mentioned in passing in the country by country review.

The table below shows the top operators in Asia as ranked by subscribers as of March 2012. It is noted that of the region’s operators just 16 (those listed in the table) have a combined share of just over 70% of the total regional mobile market. In other words, less than 10% of the market controls almost three quarters of the total subscriber base. This list of top operators has remained relatively stable over the last year or so, with few changes to the leading group.

Top mobile operators in Asia (By subscribers) – March 2012





China Mobile



China Unicom






Reliance Communications



Vodafone Essar



China Telecom



Idea/ Spice









Tata Teleservices















Smart Communications






(Source: BuddeComm based on industry data)

While the overall regional growth rate was slightly over 10% in 2011 highlights a selection of countries with growth rates well in excess of the regional average. Compared with a few years back, the market has moderated considerably; however, there was still one country with growth in excess of 100% - North Korea’s subscriber base grew by 129% in 2011. The high growth rate markets are typically the smaller developing economies that are finally experiencing surges in subscriber numbers as they reach the turning point on the ‘S-curve’. It is noted that India appears on the list. Although it is certainly experiencing a growth surge at this stage, it is its own special case being such a huge market (population 1.2 billion) with the growth being driven by a sophisticated telecom regulatory regime on the back of a strong economy.

With the progressive opening up of markets to more competition, we have seen the licensing of more and more operators across the region. One phenomenon in Asia has been the granting of a significant number of mobile operator licences in what have been regarded as smaller markets, ie with relatively low populations as well as low income per capita. We have seen this occur for example in Cambodia, Laos and Georgia. Over time, we can certainly expect some rationalisation of the operator numbers in such markets. In fact the process has already started in Cambodia.

Data in this report is the latest available at the time of preparation and may not be for the current year.

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